Even at the worst, there is always a way out,
a hidden secret that can turn failure into success
and despair into happiness.
No situation is so dark that there is not a ray of light.
~ Norman Vincent Peale ~
Oh, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person:
having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
but pour them all out, as they are, chaff and grain together,
knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
keep what is worth keeping,
and then, with the breath of kindness,
blow the rest away.
~ George Eliot, 1819 – 1880 ~
For those of you who haven’t already,
please read the following posts first to fully appreciate today’s post:
In Love Again at My Age?
What I’ve Learned From My New Love
Well, it’s finally happened. One of the 3 Pittsburgh Hays eaglets flew for the first time last week on National Bald Eagle Day. And what a glorious sight it was…
The eaglets, who are now almost the size of their parents, have been identified as 2 females and 1 male. There’s been a whole lot of wing flapping going on, and sometimes they actually flap enough to be lifted an inch or two above their nest. They have also been branching, or going further and further out on the limbs of their roosting tree.
And then, one of the eaglets flew. When I watched the video of its first flight, I just kept shouting, “It flew! It flew!” There was enough joy in my voice to almost match when my son took his first steps without falling.
Am I crazy? Maybe. Am I invested in the well-being of these eaglets that I’ve watched through incubation, hatching, feeding, branching and now fledging these past 3-plus months? Absolutely! My maternal instinct is at full throttle, and I’m their cheering section, worried mother, avian advocate and ardent supporter all rolled into one proud middle-aged package. This must be what being a grandparent is like, but without being able to hold the baby in your arms. So instead, I smother them with kisses (read: encouraging shouts) from afar.
Soon, the brother and sister will take test their wings and fly for the first time. That will leave an empty nest. And for the second time in my life, I’ll get to experience just what the Empty Nest Syndrome is all about.
The first was with my son. Who knew the mother of an only child would experience a second one, this one filled with feathers and dead fish, bird poop and rodent remnants?
And you know what? This Empty Nest is just beautiful!
Let me introduce you to one of my favorite Jesuits – Rev. Gregory Boyle, S.J., founder of Homeboy Industries ( http://homeboyindustries.org ) and author of Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion (Free Press, 2010).
For 25 years, Fr. G (as he is respectfully called by the homies) has run Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program located in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighborhood, otherwise known as the gang capital of the world. “Hope has an address.” Its mission is “to provide hope, training and support to formerly gang-involved and recently incarcerated men and women, allowing them to re-direct their lives and become contributing members of their community.”
To find joy in serving others. To love unconditionally. To acknowledge everyone as a human being with value. To learn the patience needed to walk in the darkness with someone sorely in need of being lifted out of despair, out of the darkness, into the light.
A Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light, and
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive –
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
It sounds like St. Francis of Assisi would feel at home working in LA, right next to Fr. G of Boyle Heights. Encouraging us to seek something much bigger than ourselves as individuals.
“Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” ~ Fr. G
My son – the one who was born on St. Francis’ birthday and has Francis as his Confirmation name – called me up one night quite awhile after I gave him his own copy of Fr. G’s book. The above quote was the one that stood out for him, the same one that stood out for me. Interconnected. Reaching out. That same son (actually, my one and only) who helped his Dad and I for more than 8 years in our church’s soup kitchen, told me that he found the book to be exceptional, but (there’s always a but) he couldn’t keep wiping away tears one minute, then laughing out loud, while reading it during his daily subway commute.
Laughter and tears. I agree. But by no means is it only about darkness.
David: “Yeah, I know I can fly. I just need to catch a gust o’ wind.”
Sharkey: “Damn, G. I’m gonna tattoo that on my heart.”
Willy: “God thinks I’m ‘firme’ (could not be one bit better).”
Rascal: “You know, I’m gonna take that advice, and I’m gonna let it marinate (pointing at his heart) right here.”
A homie who has given up: “That’s it. I’m moving to Mars. This planet is tired of my ass already.”
Scrappy: “I have spent the last 20 years building a reputation for myself…and now…I regret…that I even have one.”
Betito: “Hey, G, you know what you are? You da real deal.”
Terry (a 16-year-old pregnant girl in a short, bright red dress): “I just want to have a kid before I die. Promise me you’ll bury me in this dress.”
Leo: “I was watching Jerry Springer…and they had a commercial ’bout that ITT Institute – where ya learn shit, and I think, maybe I’ll call G, you know, and get me one a’ them careers.”
A homie calling off work: “I have anal blindness. I just can’t see my ass coming to work today.”
Moreno: “Damn, G – Biooooology. That’s the boooooomb right there! On Monday, we’re gonna DIGEST a frog!”
Soledad at the death of 2 of her children: “The hurt wins…the hurt wins.”
Chico at his new job: “Dear G: I am learning how to use a fax machine. A am learning a gang a’ shit here. Thanks for getting (this job) for me.”
A place of truth. Community. Dismantled boundaries that were erected to keep others out. Boundless compassion. Acceptance. Love. Kinship. Loveliness. Sacredness.
A gathering of souls. Where our souls quicken in awe at the rightness of it. Where the human spirit triumphs.
As Fr. G says: “And so the voices at the margins get heard, and the circle of compassion widens. Souls feeling their worth, refusing to forget that we belong to each other. No bullet can pierce this.”
One last thing: Fr. G has been diagnosed with leukemia. A cancer of the blood that cannot touch his heart. His soul shines and marinates in love, compassion and understanding.
Enlightened witness. Priest. Jesuit. Man.
“Go forth and set the world on fire.”
~ St. Ignatius of Loyola
That is what I wish for the world. For the new Pope. For the homies.
And for Fr. Greg, whose grace and spirit are tattooed on my heart – my love, prayers, gratitude and blessings.
Pax vobiscum. May peace be with you.
You are my light.
I’ve learned a lot from my new love.
Those of you who follow me or read my posts know of what I speak; those of you who missed it, before reading any further, I’d invite you to peruse In Love Again at My Age?
Back with me? Good.
I’m talking about my Pittsburgh Hays Eagle Family: Mom, Dad, and their 3 eaglets. I’ve watched them live on the Eagle Cam for almost two months now, when the Mom laid 3 eggs. Here’s what I’ve learned from
being addicted to watching:
“In the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s the leap of faith
It’s the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life…”
~music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice